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I may be back from Israel but I'm not through chewing over things I heard, saw, and experienced while there. One of those was at an overlook on the south side of Jerusalem, facing the old city and the temple mount. Our guide, Gila, a extremely well-informed, Jew, shared that the Jews believe that it was at that spot on the overlook that Abraham left the donkeys behind and proceeded on foot to climb Mount Moriah with his son Isaac. If you're like me, you've read that passage a hundred times and always struggled with the pain Abraham must have felt as he anticipated the death of his son.


I can imagine some of that pain because I watched my parents go through the death of their first and only son. My brother Lenny was born with Leukemia and a hole in his heart. Back then, either were a death sentence. He lived eleven months to the day, spending most of his time in the hospital. My parents were devastated. It took years for them to come to grips with his loss. I've another friend who's son died suddenly two years ago. They, too, are struggling to move on in his absence.


I don't think we can gloss over the pain that Abraham felt as he and Isaac began that journey. Our guide Gila shared the teaching of a rabbi in Israel who said that Abraham was so full of faith that he knew God would take care of Isaac somehow. Why? Because scripture says that Abraham got up early the next morning to set off for Moriah. For the rabbi, the fact that Abraham arose in the morning was proof that Abraham had slept. Again, for the rabbi, the only way Abraham could sleep that night was by depending on God to make things right.


Sounds great, doesn't it? I thought at the time, "Boy, that'll preach" (or teach in my case). Unfortunately, there's no scriptural evidence that the rabbi's thoughts are accurate. According to several friends who spend time in Hebrew language studies in the Bible, the words used have nothing to do with "sleep." One friend, a biblical scholar, offered the suggestion that maybe the rabbi was basing his comments on oral tradition rather than on biblical facts.


The whole discussion has stayed on my mind since I returned and I can now offer my own interpretation. I can understand the rabbi's teaching––it's easier to accept what Abraham did, actually taking Isaac to the place to be sacrificed, when we can imagine him having been able to sleep because he so trusted God to take the sacrifice away. However, I don't think it's that.


I think Abraham laid away all night, grieving the loss of his son on the next day. I think he rose with a heavy heart early in the morning, knowing that there were things he had to do that weren't going to be easy. I think he made the trip up to Mount Moriah, treasuring ever moment, every second, that he could spend with his beloved son. I think, with all his heart, he wanted not to have to do what he was doing. But he did it anyway. Why? Because God told him to.


There's no doubt in my mind that Abraham acted with complete faith and obedience, even when God's instructions literally ripped his own heart to pieces and made no sense. The point is that Abraham acted. He obeyed. He demonstrated his faith in God. And God honored that.


I've never had to face the pain that Abraham faced, but I've faced difficulties in trying to follow God's will in my life. And in spite of the frustrations or lack of understanding or disappointment, God has honored my obedience. Maybe that's the lesson we can learn from Abraham.


Margie Williamson

Community Manager

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Comment by Margie Williamson on January 19, 2011 at 4:04pm
Yeah, Jenny, it will preach (or teach). Someone made the comment to me today in a Bible study that we try to sterilize the scripture to make it the way we "want" it to be. If we're not careful, we lose the depth of what it is for what we wish!
Comment by Jenny Riddle on January 19, 2011 at 9:58am
You are right, I think we do have to be careful not to project our own ideas of "what would I have done/felt" to biblical characters when it is not obvious in Scripture. The writer of Hebrews explained that Abraham had such faith in God that He could even raise Isaac from the dead if necessary. His faith was genuine, and that was evident by his active obedience to God's command to sacrifice Isaac. But surely it was not easy for him. If it were not a real test of faith, then it would not have been called a test. In the face of what is so difficult for us, we seem to be able to gauge the true sincerity of our faith in commands and circumstances that we do not understand. I don't know what Abraham did during the night. I know I probably wouldn't have slept. But regardless of what happened during the night, his actions of the day proved his faith in God's promises. He would no longer take matters into his own hands as he had done previously, but he would trust that God could even raise from the dead if necessary. And what an amazing glimpse we have here of the risen Christ, who, through Abraham, would bless the entire world just as God promised Abram so many years before. And that'll preach.


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